CLE Hours: 6 including 6 General, 1 Ethics, 0 Professionalism, 2 Trial Practice
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John D. Hadden is a trial and appellate litigator with Penn Law in Atlanta, where he handles catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death cases across the state. He is author of Georgia Law of Torts - Trial Preparation and Practice and Green's Georgia Law of Evidence, both published by Thomson Reuters. He is also a registered mediator with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution. John is president of the Atlanta Trial Lawyers Association, a member of the Atlanta Bar Association Board of Directors and past chair of the Atlanta Bar’s Litigation Section, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Atlanta Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service, and a past chair of the Litigation Committee of the State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyers Division. John is a graduate of Emory University and the University of Georgia School of Law, where he was a member of the Georgia Law Review. John has been named one of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend, recognized by Atlanta Magazine in its annual list of Top 100 Georgia Super Lawyers, and holds an AV/Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell. He has also been recognized by the Fulton County Daily Report as one of its “On the Rise — Top 40 Under 40.”
Andy Goldner received his undergraduate degree, with honors, from the University of Virginia and his law degree, with honors, from the University of Georgia in 2002. Andy started his legal practice defending medical care providers and insurance companies. In 2005, Andy began training under some of the best and most experienced Plaintiff’s attorneys in the state of Georgia, routinely handling cases valued well in excess of one million dollars.
For more than 18 years, Andy’s practice has been devoted entirely to representing individuals who have suffered serious injury or wrongful death arising out of commercial vehicle wrecks, auto collisions, daycare negligence, and premises liability matters. To date, he has recovered in excess of $60,000,000.00 for his clients.
Andy has a particular focus on child injury cases.
Andy has been lead or co-lead counsel on more than one hundred and thirty cases resulting in settlements or verdicts of six figures or more. These cases include seventeen seven figure results and an $18,100,000.00 settlement which was at the time believed to be among the largest pre-trial adult wrongful death settlements in Georgia history.
In July 2014, he was co-lead counsel on a wrongful death case in Fulton County involving a young, disabled man that resulted in a $2,000,000 verdict, after the defense offered $50,000 to settle. In July 2019, Andy tried two automobile collision / serious injury six figure cases to verdict, where the jury awarded between two hundred and three hundred percent of the last offers by the insurance companies. He has been voted by other attorneys in Georgia as a ‘Super Lawyer’ in the area of personal injury litigation every year since 2009, a Top 100 Georgia lawyer in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, recognized in Georgia Trend Magazine as one of Georgia’s Legal Elite in 2011 and 2016, and was selected by the Daily Report as a “Rising Star” in 2014.
David Lefkowitz graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. and earned his J.D. from Emory University School of Law. The Lefkowitz Firm, LLC, represents individuals and corporations in their claims for legal malpractice (legal negligence) and similar claims such as breach of fiduciary duty, executor misconduct and ethical misconduct by attorneys and other fiduciaries. The firm also represents attorneys and law firms with regard to risk management and attorney’s fee disputes. David is an adjunct professor of legal malpractice law, ethics, and risk management at the University of Georgia School of Law and is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education seminars. David has offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Athens, Georgia.
Justice Verda M. Colvin was appointed to the Supreme Court on July 20, 2021, by Gov. Brian Kemp. She is the first African-American female appointed by a Republican governor to the state’s high court.
Previously, she served on the Court of Appeals, having been appointed by Gov. Kemp in April 2020. Her time as judge also includes nearly six years as a Superior Court judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit, during which she served on the Council of Accountability Court Judges.
Justice Colvin discovered her love for trial work early in her career as an Assistant Solicitor in Athens-Clarke County. From there, she went on to serve as Assistant General Counsel to Clark Atlanta University and then as Assistant District Attorney in Clayton County. Before becoming a judge, Justice Colvin was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Georgia, where she prosecuted a wide range of offenses from drug trafficking to white collar crime.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Justice Colvin attended Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in government and religion from Sweet Briar College in Virginia and her juris doctorate from the University Of Georgia School Of Law.
Judge Colvin is committed to service professionally and personally. In 2019, the Supreme Court appointed her to serve on the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). Additionally, during her tenure as a Superior Court Judge she served on the CSCJ Bench & Bar and Legislative Committees and as a member of the Council of Accountability Court Judges (CACJ) where she was part of the Funding Committee, the Committee Chair for Accountability and Treatment Courts and a member of the CACJ Executive Committee. Justice Colvin was serving as co-chair of the Rules Committee for the Council of Superior Court Judges (CSCJ) at the time of her appointment to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Kemp.
She formerly served on Gov. Nathan Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Committee and the Law Enforcement Task Force Committee. During her service on the Court of Appeals Justice Colvin served as a member of the Internal Operations Manual and the Continuing Judicial Education and In-house Continuing Legal Education for Staff Attorneys. She co-chaired the Strategic Planning/Court Futures Committee and was appointed to serve on the Continuing Judicial Education Board of Trustees. In her service on the Supreme Court of Georgia she currently serves as the Chair of the Access to Justice Committee.
Justice Colvin is a member of several organizations and boards: The Order of Barristers, Macon Bar Association, American Bar Association (ABA), Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys (GABWA), Georgia Association for Women Lawyers (GAWL), Gate City Bar-Judicial Section, William A. Bootle American Inn of Court, Charles Weltner Family Inn of Court, Clarence Cooper Inn of Court, Clarke-Carley Inn of Court, the Downtown Rotary Club of Macon , Board of Trustees for Mount de Sales Academy (Chair of Board in 2021), Jack and Jill of America-Macon Chapter, Board of Directors for the Fuller Center for Housing of Macon (President 2018-2021), Boys and Girls Club of Central Georgia Corporate Board of Directors, Macon Bibb Citizens Advocacy Board, Secretary (2021-Present), Co-chair of ONEMACON 2.0, Georgia Citizen Advocacy Board, Sweet-Briar College Board of Trustees, Goodwill Industries Board of Directors, Wesleyan College Board of Trustees, and Knight Foundation Advisory Board. Justice Colvin is a proud Leadership Macon 2010 graduate.
Among her numerous awards and honors are Justice Verda M. Colvin Month in honor of Women’s History Month in Macon-Bibb County (2022) by Mayor Lester Miller, Alaimo Award (2022) by Georgia Trial Lawyer Association (GTLA), The Leah Ward Sears Award for Distinction in the Profession (2021) by GABWA, The Young Lawyer Division of the State Bar of Georgia Distinguished Judicial Award (2020-21), The Honorable Debra Bernes Community Volunteer Award (2021) by GAWL, Tradition of Excellence Award as a Judge by The General Practice and Trial Section of the State Bar of Georgia (2019), Middle Georgia Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Woman Lawyer of the Year (2019), The House of Hope-Women’s History Month Award (2019), NAACP President’s Award (2018), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Pearls of Service Award (2017), Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Citizen of the Year (2016 and 2017), Career Women’s Network Woman of Achievement (2016), Georgia Orthodox Missionary Baptist Association Community Service Award (2015), and Leadership Macon’s Robert F. Hatcher Distinguished Alumni Award as a Community Leader.
Justice Colvin has served as an adjunct professor at Mercer School of Law and she is a member of First Baptist Church where she serves as a children’s Sunday school teacher and on the Women’s Ministry Leadership Team. She is the proud mother of two children, Weston and Taylor, and the wife of Nathaniel Walker with whom she shares two other adult children, Nathan and Nathalie.
M. Brandon Smith
Childers, Schlueter & Smith, LLC
1932 North Druid Hills Road, Suite 100
Atlanta, Georgia, 30319
M. Brandon Smith is a trial lawyer and partner at the law firm of Childers, Schlueter & Smith, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia where his practice focuses 100% on of obtaining justice for injured individuals in the areas of pharmaceutical litigation, medical devices, product liability, mass torts, and wrongful death. Brandon represents clients all over the United States in addition to those residing in Georgia.
Brandon is currently litigating the following mass torts: Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Litigation, Talcum Powder Litigation; Hernia Mesh Litigation; Roundup Litigation; Stryker Hip Implant Litigation; IVC Filter litigation; CPAP Cancer Litigation; and select other single event causes of action stemming from dangerous drugs and/or products including but not limited to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome injuries.
Brandon received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history at the University of Georgia in 2001. He went on to attend the University of Georgia School of Law, earning his Juris Doctorate in 2004. Immediately after graduation from the University of Georgia School of Law, Brandon became an Assistant District Attorney for the Newton County District Attorney’s Office for the Alcovy Circuit, where he strived to protect the rights and dignity of innocent victims.
Brandon is an active member of the American Association for Justice; Georgia Trial Lawyers Association; Southern Trial Lawyers Association; Melvin Belli Society; the National Trial Lawyers Association; Elite Lawyers of America; and many other legal groups and civic organizations.
In 2023 Brandon was again selected as a Georgia Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters (mass torts); listed in the Best Lawyers Publication (mass torts); chosen as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the State of Georgia by The National Trial Lawyers. These prestigious honors are reserved for America’s top trial lawyers exemplifying superior qualifications, trial results, and leadership. They are by invitation only, and are based in part on peer nominations from fellow lawyers from all over the United States.
L. Chris Stewart is the Managing Partner of Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys, a serious injury and wrongful death law firm. Chris handles a variety of cases including wrongful death, civil rights, premises liability, mass torts and sexual assaults. Chris has won numerous record setting jury verdicts and made U.S history when he won the first billion dollar jury verdict for a rape victim. Chris is also recognized worldwide as one of the top civil rights lawyers of his generation. He has represented some of the most famous civil rights cases of this century that were captured on video including Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Gregory Towns, Chase Sherman, and Deaundre Phillips. Attorney Stewart demands not just a monetary award for his clients, but also policing reform to prevent future abuse. Stewart also represents 4 of the most famous cases of 2020 including Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Taniyah Pilgrim (student who was tased during a peaceful protest in Atlanta).
Attorney Stewart is one of the most decorated African-American lawyers in the country having received the Julia Humbles’ Civil Rights Award, the Wiley Branton Award for Leadership, the Outstanding Citizen Award for the State of Georgia, the Georgia Senate Outstanding Public Service Proclamation, the Pinnacle Leadership Award, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Chairman’s Award, the Esquire Award, the R.E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, the first and only African-American voted Attorney of the Year for the State of Georgia.
Chris has been featured in international media including CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, The New York Times, Fox News, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Forbes and is a contributor on various media outlets. He travels frequently speaking at a variety of events and schools as the key note speaker. Born and raised in southwest Atlanta, Chris is extremely active in the Atlanta community and is also a board member of the historic Southern Center for Human Rights. He is a double HBCU alumni, graduating from Xavier University (LA) with honors in English, Tulane University with a Master’s of Science in Public Health, and Howard University School of Law. Having overcome reading issues as a youth, Chris embodies his favorite motto “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”
Elissa Haynes is a Partner in Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP’s Atlanta office, where she is Vice-Chair of the firm’s national appellate practice section. Elissa’s trial and appellate practice is focused primarily on defending claims involving negligent security, trucking, premises liability,and personal/catastrophic injury. She has served as both lead and solo counsel in jury trials throughout the state, many of which have ended in defense verdicts. Her background as a former plaintiff’s personal injury attorney provides her with a unique perspective and leverage to successfully resolve even the most complex cases.
As for her appellate practice, Elissa has argued before the Georgia Supreme Court and Georgia Court of Appeals and was part of the first group of attorneys to argue at the Georgia Supreme Court remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elissa routinely consults on appellate matters and often begins her involvement at the trial court level to perfect the record and maximize chances of an advantageous result in any subsequent appeal. She also serves as co-chair of the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association’s Amicus Curiae Committee where she is tasked with reviewing amicus requests from GDLA members as well as authoring and submitting briefs on issues that pose particular significance to the defense bar.
Outside of the firm, Elissa serves as Immediate Past President of the State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”) and on the State Bar’s Executive Committee. Elissa has been recognized as a Georgia Super Lawyer Rising Star for Appellate Law from 2019-2023, an award given to only 2.5% of attorneys under the age of 40. She was also selected to the 2021 Fulton County Daily Report’s ‘On the Rise’ Class. which recognizes the state’s top 20 lawyers age 40 and under.
Elissa received her J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and her B.A. from the University of Georgia where she graduated cum laude. Elissa was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia and currently resides in Chamblee.
Judge Veronica Cope was elected to the Gwinnett County State Court bench in June 2020. A native of Tarboro, NC, Veronica practiced law in Gwinnett County and the Metropolitan Atlanta area for over 19 years. Veronica is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned dual Batchelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and African and Afro-American Studies. She also graduated from the University of North Carolina’s School of Law where she served as the Symposium Editor as a member of the North Carolina Law Review. Judge Cope is a Past President of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers (GAWL), an organization of over 800 women statewide which has as its mission to enhance the welfare and development of women lawyers and to support their interests. She was previously the President of GAWL Gwinnett and served as the President of the GAWL Foundation from 2012-2013. As President of the GAWL Foundation.
Veronica along with her board, worked tirelessly to award grants for nonprofit organizations with a focus on assisting women and children in the legal system, providing meals and services to the Nicholas House, a shelter for families in transition, and awarding scholarships for young women with a desire to work in the public interest sector. She has mentored countless younger lawyers and has served as a facilitator for the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys’ Judicial and Public Office Academy.
Veronica is an active member of the community and is a public servant in every sense of the word. She is a member of the Gwinnett County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is actively involved in a number of community service initiatives. Veronica is also a charter member of the Gwinnett Section of the National Council of Negro Women which works to lead, advocate for, and empower women of African descent.
She served as the Section’s inaugural Parliamentarian and Chair of the Bylaws Committee for three years. As an attorney, Veronica also gave back to the community by often handling criminal and juvenile matters on a pro bono or reduced fee basis to ensure that citizens had equal access to justice. Veronica practiced as a general litigator with diverse practice experience and has taken both civil and criminal matters to trial.
She has practiced in a number of areas including complex commercial litigation, insurance defense, auto warranty litigation defense, criminal defense and juvenile law. Veronica has also served as a guest lecturer for Emory Law School’s Introduction to Legal Advocacy class. Veronica is a graduate of Leadership Gwinnett, GLANCE Gwinnett (a Leadership Gwinnett program), Leadership DeKalb, GAWL’s Leadership Academy, and the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia’s Leadership Academy.
When Veronica is not on the bench or serving the community, she enjoys spending quality time with her sons Robin, Jr., Dawson, and Dustin and playing and watching sports.
Maggy has dedicated the majority of her career to helping seriously injured victims recover for their injuries. Maggy has been a part of numerous trial teams and recovered many significant settlements for her clients. Since 2020, she has been recognized as a Super Lawyer Rising Star. Only 2.5% of the total lawyers in Georgia are selected as Rising Stars. Maggy has also been recognized as one of Georgia Trend’s Legal Elite and in Best Lawyers in America – Ones to Watch.
Maggy began her legal career as a judicial clerk to Thomas W. Thrash, Jr., the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. There, she assisted the Judge in drafting orders and learned the intricate inner workings of the federal court system.
Following the completion of her clerkship, Maggy joined a large international law firm where she worked to defend a corporation facing multiple individual products liability suits as the result of a decertified class action. Additionally, Maggy took on several pro bono cases, including successfully representing the uncle of two unaccompanied immigrant children from Guatemala. Maggy assisted her client in obtaining guardianship of his nieces, the first step in obtaining special immigrant juvenile status for the children.
Since graduating from the University of Georgia School of Law, Maggy has remained active in the law school's moot court and mock trial programs, serving as a guest judge as well as a team coach. Maggy also serves as the head coach for Georgia State University’s undergraduate mock trial team and is a Candidate Director of the American Mock Trial Association’s Board of Directors.
Since 2020, Maggy has been a member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association’s Executive Committee, serving as chair of the New Lawyers’ Division and the Communications Committee.
Raised in Montgomery, AL, Erica Parsons spent her undergraduate years at Auburn University studying English and French. She worked in the South of France for a summer before graduating magna cum laude. Once she came to terms with the fact that she likely would not achieve her lifelong dream of becoming Queen of England, she decided to take her unique talents for zealous advocacy to the University of Georgia School of Law.
At UGA, Erica proved herself a skilled advocate, competing nationally in both Moot Court and Mock Trial teams and serving as research assistant to Professor Ronald Carlson. She was so devoted to UGA’s advocacy program that Erica (and her husband Mark) have the unique honor of being the only couple to ever be married in the Hatton-Lovejoy Courtroom at the law school.
After graduating from UGA, Erica began her practice in coastal Alabama, but relocated to Atlanta after weathering 5 hurricanes in 18 months, including Hurricane Katrina. She then spent nearly two decades in Atlanta working as an insurance defnese attorney and focussed her practice on general liability and automobile insurance defense, bad faith and coverage litigation . She is licensed to practice in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee and has successfully litigated cases in both state and federal courts at the trial and appellate levels.
In 2022, Erica decided to hit the reset button on her career and left the defense side entirely, joining ranks with her law school classmate Arman Deganian and the other stellar attorneys in the firm of Litner + Deganian, P.C. She now happily represents clients who have been injured in accidents and she works hard to achieve exceptional results on their behalf.
With two decades of litigation experience, Erica has developed a uniquely measured approach to the practice of law that centers on compassion, understanding, and integrity with a healthy dose of good humor and a touch of irreverence. “I’m a child of the 80s, so the wisdom of Roadhouse’s James Dalton was imprinted on me early and I try incorporate it into my law practice whenever possible: ‘All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice. . . until it’s time to not be nice.’”
Outside of work, Erica likes to spend time in her mountain home with her husband and three rescue dogs – Waylon, Jesse, and Hank – and her stepdaughter Lauris, who lives in Austin, Texas. She volunteers at Paws 4 Life in Rabun, cooks, travels takes ballet classes, and enjoys photography.
Susan Edlein is a judge on the State Court of Fulton County. She has served as a Judge on that court since 2008 and previously served as Chief Judge. In addition to her civil and criminal case load, she works with the DUI Court, an accountability court for people with multiple DUI convictions.
In 2013 the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers (GAWL) awarded Susan Edlein its highest honor, the Kathleen Kessler Award, which is given to a female attorney who exhibits the highest degree of professionalism and dedication to service in the legal community. Again in 2017, GAWL awarded Edlein with the Honorable Debra Bernes Community Volunteer Award in recognition of exceptional service to the greater community through pro bono work and community service. The Atlanta Bar Association honored Edlein as the recipient of its “Professionalism Award” in 2012. Edlein is the 2022 recipient of the Atlanta Bar Association’s Outstanding Women in the Profession Achievement Award in recognition of her mentorship of women lawyers and service to the profession.
Edlein is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Atlanta. She is also a graduate of both the Regional Leadership Institute and Commercial Real Estate Women’s Leadership Program. Before taking the bench, Edlein was a litigation partner with Holland & Knight.
Edlein is an active participant in many bar organizations. She currently serves on the Board of Governors for the State Bar of Georgia and as Chair of the Lawyer’s Club. Edlein is a board member for the Litigation Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.
Susan Edlein grew up in Atlanta. She received her undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and her law degree from the University of Virginia. She and her husband Scott have three young adult children.
Judge Kimberly A. Alexander serves as the Judge in Division A-7 of the DeKalb County State Court, Division A. Since 2019 Judge Alexander served as State Court Judge, Division B-10 of the DeKalb County State Court- Division B. Judge Alexander was born in Augusta, Georgia, and she graduated from Lakeside High School in Evans, Georgia. Judge Alexander earned a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in English from Georgia State University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia School of Law. After becoming a member of the State Bar of Georgia in November 2004, Judge Alexander immediately entered public service as a Superior Court Judicial Law Clerk in Richmond County, Georgia and Columbia County, Georgia.
Judge Alexander has experience in both criminal and civil trial practice and appellate litigation. Judge Alexander most recently served as an Assistant County Attorney for the Office of the Fulton County Attorney. This legal department was awarded the 2019 In-House Legal Department of the Year. There she provided daily legal advice, handled a high-volume of transactional matters, and handled civil litigation on behalf of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Departments, Boards, and county officials in federal and state court. In addition, Judge Alexander served as parliamentarian and legal counsel to the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors.
Judge Alexander previously served as a Legal Officer for the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, represented Georgia Department of Family and Children Services as an associate with Brown, Geiger & Associates, represented children as a Fulton County Child Advocate Attorney, handled education law cases as an associate with Brock, Clay, Calhoun & Rogers, and served as an Assistant Solicitor General in the Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office.
Judge Alexander is a member of the DeKalb NCNW Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Lambda Epsilon Omega), and serves on the Executive Board and is an active member of the Stone Mountain Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Judge Alexander is a member of several bar organizations and has previously served as Secretary of the Judicial Section of the Gate City Bar Association and DeKalb Lawyers Association.
Judge Alexander and her family reside in Decatur, Georgia.
Peyton Bell is a graduate of the Univeristy of Georgia School of Law (2015) and Rhodes College (2009). Last year, Peyton founded his firm Bell Injury Law and focuses his practice on plaintiff side injury and death cases.
Before starting his own firm, Peyton worked at Harris Lowry Manton, LLP for over four years where he focused on catasrophic injury and wrongful death cases in the areas of auto product liability, defective medical devices, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, negligent security and intentional torts. Peyton started his legal career primarily working as a civil defense litigator at the firm now known as Copeland, Stair, Valz, and Lovell, LLP.
Before going to law school, Peyton worked in Washington, D.C. as a Legislative Assistant and then Press Secretary for Congressman John Barrow.
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The information presented is solely for educational purposes. The opinions expressed by the faculty in their materials and presentations are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the State Bar of Georgia, its officers, directors and/or employees. The faculty is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and these presentations and publications are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. All publications and presentations were created to serve the continuing legal education needs of practicing attorneys.
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